Date of Award

Spring 1989

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This study examined suicide, homicide, motor vehicle accidental death, other accidental death and a combined violent death rate for each of the fifty U.S. states. Suicide, homicide and accidental death are all defined as forms of violent death. Three characteristics were identified that provide the rationale for studying violent death in aggregate form: (1) the intent of the action, (2) aggression, and (3) self destructiveness and risk taking. Two theoretical explanations were used in the examination of violent death rates. The theory of the functional alternative was used to explore the relationship among the different forms of violent death. The theory of a subculture of violence was used to explain the combinations of social characteristics which statistically best predicted increased risk of violent death. Multiple regression analyses examined the relationship between rates of violent death and measures of cultural support for violence. Sex and race-specific rates of violent death (e.g. white female homicide rate) were regressed on the predictor and control variables (Index of Legitimate Violence, divorce rate, percent poor, percent metropolitan, percent black, Confederate South/ Nonsouth and percent aged 18-24). The final regression models demonstrated only mild support for the subculture of violence thesis. The most striking lack of support for this hypothesis was demonstrated in the homicide models. The Legitimate Violence Index, percent black, and Confederate South, all variables that have been positively correlated with homicide in past research, were not significantly associated with sex and race-specific rates of homicide. The models for motor vehicle accidental death were very well explained by the subculture of violence argument. The Index was also significantly associated with black and white male suicide, and white male combined violent death. It was concluded that future research should continue to explore the relationship among suicide, homicide and accidental death. The use of disaggregated rates of violent death should also be further explored.